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Screenwriting for Film & Television

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Master of Arts

Degree Type

Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts

Department

Graduate Program in Creative Writing

The demand for new voices in screenwriting is greater than ever. With close mentorship from working screenwriters, you’ll spend two years building a portfolio that showcases your voice. You’ll also develop the habits and knowledge you need to chart your own unique course in a complex industry.

Program Overview

Immerse yourself in the business of screenwriting.

As a student in Western’s MFA and M.A. in Screenwriting program, you’ll learn about Hollywood standard writing methodology and gain valuable insights into how this exciting business works. Through a dynamic blend of coursework and hands-on experience, you’ll learn how to find your place in the industry, elevate best practices and use this highly visual and theme-driven medium to display your knowledge and creativity. Recent guests have included – J D Payne, Billy Ray, Glen Mazzara, Sarah Nicole Jones, Diane Bell, Tripper ClancyMike Reiss, John Bowman, Joel Thompson, and many more.

Industry insights

JS Mayank discussing the screenwriting industry at the Summer Residency.

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

Concentration in Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television

The Concentration in Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television includes instruction in the history and analysis of classical and contemporary screenwriting texts and the resulting films. The program emphasizes instruction in writing the visual narrative, three- and four-act structure, character development, thematic development, conflict, genre, story arc, and dialogue, for both the feature-length screenplay and television writing. Students also learn to apply strategies and techniques for the effective teaching of creative writing. 

The MFA Concentration in Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television requires the following 60 credits: 

CRWR 600Summer Orientation1
CRWR 661Film History and Analysis; the Visual Narrative2
CRWR 662Story, Conflict, Character, and Genre in Screenwriting2
CRWR 663Screenwriting, Competition, Representation, the Option2
CRWR 665Screenwriting Genre6
CRWR 668Television Drama and Sit Comedy6
CRWR 671Writing the First Feature-Length Screenplay6
CRWR 675Writing the TV Pilot6
CRWR 678Adaptation6
CRWR 690Screenwriting Master's Capstone I6
CRWR 691Screenwriting Master's Capstone II6
Select one of the following out-of-concentration courses during the second Fall term:6
CRWR 609
Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery
CRWR 610
Genre Fiction Writing and Reading Survey
CRWR 614
Traditional Publishing I
CRWR 623
Independent and New Model Publishing I
CRWR 646
Narrative Poetry
CRWR 685
Craft of Creative Nonfiction
Three credits of:3
CRWR 694
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)

Screenwriting as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows: 
 

CRWR 600Summer Orientation1
CRWR 663Screenwriting, Competition, Representation, the Option2
CRWR 665Screenwriting Genre6
CRWR 668Television Drama and Sit Comedy6
CRWR 671Writing the First Feature-Length Screenplay6
CRWR 675Writing the TV Pilot6
or CRWR 678 Adaptation
Three credits of:
CRWR 694
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)

Students may count CRWR 665 Screenwriting Genre toward the second concentration if they have already taken it to fulfill the out-of-concentration course required by their primary concentration.

Careers

Take the first steps toward your dream career.

Career preparation is the primary focus of every academic program at Western. Our professors and Office of Career Services will help you identify your strengths, hone your skills, define your goals, and prepare for a fulfilling role in hundreds of professional fields after graduation.

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The Program

Acquire critical skills and experience in an efficient and effective program.

Western’s graduate Creative Writing program follows a low-residency format. Faculty and students interact online through Zoom and Canvas during the academic year and gather in person on Western’s campus for one week in early August for intensive classes and to work closely with nationally recognized authors on their writing.

  • Residency: MFA students attend three summer residencies. The first helps students develop a visual narrative style; the second focuses on workshopping short screenplays; and the third prepares graduates to present their work through pitches, table reads, and more. M.A. students only attend the first two residencies.
  • Academic Year: During the academic year, full-time students take two courses each semester. These six-credit courses make use of video conferencing and web platforms for online work. MFA students complete four such semesters, and M.A. students complete two.
  • Additional Opportunities: Guests and visiting artists compliment course instruction throughout the year. In their second fall term, MFA students take one class in another creative writing concentration (Genre Fiction, Poetry, Nature Writing or Publishing). All students are given guidance on how to succeed in the film industry.
  • Matriculation: To complete the MFA, students spend their final semester working on a feature-length screenplay under the close supervision of a faculty mentor. These screenplays are then given a professional table read at the final residency. To complete the M.A., students complete the coursework of their two academic semesters and two residencies.

Modern storytelling

We believe in teaching our students how to find their place in this industry, elevate the norms, invite in the unexpected, and use this highly visual and theme-driven medium to shake up the world with their stories.

Opportunities and Partnerships

  • Create a polished portfolio of 3-4 writing samples that showcase your voice
  • Practice and internalize the all-important fundamentals of structure
  • Gain experience in script coverage and script notes
  • Explore cinematic storytelling and working with actors
  • Experience intimate workshops with guests and visiting artists, recently including J D Payne, Billy Ray, Glen Mazzara, Sarah Nicole Jones, Diane Bell, Tripper Clancy, Mike Reiss, John Bowman, Joel Thompson, and many more
  • Learn through peer workshops and one-on-one mentorships– both online and in person​
  • Learn about representation, copyright, and contracts
  • Learn how to identify and pursue opportunities in the industry
  • Develop a career plan, with personalized guidance from industry veterans
  • Take a course in one of the program’s other concentrations: Genre Fiction, Poetry, Nature Writing, or Publishing
  • Opportunity to add a second concentration to your MFA degree, allowing for unique combination degrees, such as Screenwriting/Genre Fiction or Screenwriting/Publishing.

On-campus screenings

New Screenwriting student Emily Nortnick sharing a laugh at the Summer Residency.

News & Research

Creative writing professors talking

GPCW Faculty Announce New Book Releases and Movie Deals

Read More about GPCW Faculty Announce New Book Releases and Movie Deals
Kevin Anderson Dune

GPCW Publishing Concentration Director Celebrates the Release of DUNE

Read More about GPCW Publishing Concentration Director Celebrates the Release of DUNE
GPCW growth

Graduate Program Pushes Caps on Enrollment During Pandemic

Read More about Graduate Program Pushes Caps on Enrollment During Pandemic
Nature Writing MFA names new director

Nature Writing MFA names new director

Read More about Nature Writing MFA names new director
New York Times publishes op-ed by Western’s Genre Fiction Director

New York Times publishes op-ed by Western’s Genre Fiction Director

Read More about New York Times publishes op-ed by Western’s Genre Fiction Director
Genre Fiction Director, Fran Wilde

Western Announces New Director of Genre Fiction

Read More about Western Announces New Director of Genre Fiction
Western announces new Nature Writing MFA

Western announces new Nature Writing MFA

Read More about Western announces new Nature Writing MFA
Learning in the dark: Celluloid Cinema makes watching old movies that new thing

Learning in the dark: Celluloid Cinema makes watching old movies that new thing

Read More about Learning in the dark: Celluloid Cinema makes watching old movies that new thing

Department Information

Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Director

Tyson Hausdoerffer, Ph.D.

Director, Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Program Support Coordinator

Rebecca Deluccia, M.A.

Program Coordinator

Contact Information

970.943.2163

rdeluccia@western.edu

Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Quigley Hall 117
1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81231

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